Interview with Oscar Fendler
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QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

And you also said that on the Wilson farm they had like recreational facilities, like this was a really self contained community.

OSCAR FENDLER:

The Lee Wilson establishment was unbelievable, and it was just something different from anything else maybe in the United States. It was one of the largest plantations. The only other plantation compared with it was one the English owned out in Mississippi, Delta Pine, down there. And they, they provided everything in the way of entertainment for them. For instance, mostly entertainment I'd say for the, either one, the tenant or the sharecropper were religion. So they'd have a number of churches that they saw were built and they did for them. And the churches were, that's where the women would have, get together and they'd talk and sew and maybe cook and all of that sort of stuff. And then they'd have picnics. And they'd sponsor these picnics. This was before the time of the movie theater. And later on, of course, they had movies down there they'd go to. But otherwise for the men, for instance, they knew that they needed to keep their labor on the plantation on weekends. Today is Sunday, so they'd provide a place where they could gamble. And they'd have all, shoot craps, you know what shoot craps is, it's dice, rolling dice. Play poker, whatever. Provide them with alcohol or liquors if they needed it down there. They didn't mind how drunk they got, as long as they stayed there. Once they went into one of the towns, Osceola or Blytheville, and got drunk, they'd be picked up, put in jail, then Mr. Wilson or some of the farm owners here, cost them fifty, sixty dollars to get them out of jail. That was expensive. Other things they would do for them was, for instance, say, when it came to, let's say, taking part in governmental activities, Lee, Lee Wilson, and Wilson did not have a city, it wasn't incorporated, but it was just about like I said and Mr. Wilson was a boss and he ran it. After him, Mr. Crane. Mr. Wilson died in 1933. That's, he was Robert E. Lee Wilson and he was born in 19, I mean 1865, and of course very pro-Confederacy. Everything was directed to that. One distinction I haven't mentioned here is is the racial distinction. And Wilson, for instance, all of the whites lived on west of the railroad track. It was the St. Louis, San Francisco Railroad. It came from St. Louis to Memphis. And the blacks lived on the east side. Their houses were good, you know, they could live in them comfortable and everything, but it didn't compare with the ones that whites were living in. And for all of this Mr. Wilson charged them a nominal rent which included electricity and water, you know, utilities like that.

INTERVIEWER:

How were they different? How was the housing different between black and white?

OSCAR FENDLER:

Well, for instance, the white houses over there on the what do you call it, on the west side there, it would start, there are three bedroom house or a four bedroom house or a five bedroom house. It was very well-constructed. It wasn't elaborate, but very well-constructed. When you go over across the track where the blacks were, they were maybe a two bedroom, what we call a shotgun house, just two bedrooms right together and the bedroom was the kitchen is also the living room and everything. They provide screens for them, but the difficult is to getting them to know that they ought to keep the screens good. And they did not give them any sewers over there. We're talking now about '33, '34, '35. I don't know that you'd say that he was trying to favor one against the other, but he could, they did, what was economically necessary to keep labor. And they could get, keep labor without spending a lot of money on them. And that's what they did.